Sundance Film Festival 2022: Emma Thompson, Thandiwe Newton and some haunting horror flicks
Every year around this time, film critics, movie-lovers, artists and producers descend on Park City, Utah for the storied Sundance Film Festival. This year, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic made gathering in-person an impossibility (as it did in 2021 as well), but that hasn’t stopped the world’s biggest cinephiles from seeing some of the most exciting films on the horizon well before they turn up at multiplexes.
From Jan. 20-30, our film critics scoped out the best, buzziest and most unexpected titles of the festival. Read on for our final dispatch from the fest, which features an Emma Thompson charm offensive, a horror movie of manners and terrific performances from Thandiwe Newton, Rebecca Hall, Dakota Johnson and Dakota Johnson’s beanie hat.
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Good Luck to You, Leo Grande: Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack play a hell of a duet
Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack appear in "Good Luck to You, Leo Grande" by Sophie Hyde, an official selection of the Premieres section at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Nick Wall.
The premise: "Nancy Stokes (Emma Thompson) doesn’t know good sex. Whatever it may be, Nancy, a retired schoolteacher, is pretty sure she has never had it, but she is determined to finally do something about that. She even has a plan: It involves an anonymous hotel room, and a young sex worker who calls himself Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack). Leo is confident, dapper, and takes pride in being good at his job. He also appears to be intrigued by Nancy — one of many things to surprise her during their time together."
Our critic’s take: "Good Luck to You, Leo Grande" would make a hell of a play. It’s quite the movie, too, but this lovely story from director Sophie Hyde and screenwriter Katy Brand is easy to imagine on a stage: It’s divided into scenes of continuous action, takes place almost exclusively in the same single location and focuses (with one brief exception) on the same two people, alone together. When a film’s locus is limited in this way, it’s often the result of translation — what was once a play makes the leap to the screen without altering its small scale, for better or worse (or both).
But "Leo Grande" didn’t begin life as a play. And there’s no denying that the intimacy of the story and subtlety of the acting make it a perfect fit for this equally intimate and subtle medium. Hyde’s camera often stays at a respectful distance from Nancy, particularly when she’s visibly uncomfortable (not a rare occurrence). But it draws nearer as her tension eases, essentially granting the audience a front-row seat to watch Emma Thompson do her thing while at the top of her game. But then again, when isn’t she at the top of her game?
Even in a career filled with terrific, wide-ranging performances, Thompson’s turn here stands out. As is the case with many of the women Thompson plays, Nancy Stokes crackles with intelligence; she’s also immensely appealing without ever losing a certain amount of thorniness. She is a person, not a heroine. (Okay, she’s a little bit of a heroine.) Daryl McCormack’s performance, in contrast, doesn’t seem nearly as complex right off the bat, but as the film progresses and the dynamic shifts it becomes clear exactly how layered his work has been, creating the Leo Grande persona while leaving the occasional crack or fracture that reveals part of the person beneath.
Nancy’s not alone in finding it difficult to surrender to the fantasy. "Leo Grande" requires a leap on the audience’s part, an acceptance of the inherent theatricality of the premise. But if you can make that leap, the rewards are considerable. Maybe not as considerable as they are in Nancy’s situation, but an absolute pleasure all the same. [Allison Shoemaker]
97 minutes. Dir: Sophie Hyde. Featuring: Emma Thompson, Daryl McCormack.
WATCH FOR FREE ON TUBI: Emma Thompson stars in her own Oscar-winning adaptation of "Sense and Sensibility"
Last Flight Home: Ondi Timoner says goodbye in this heartbreaking documentary
Eli Timoner, Elissa Timoner, Rachel Timoner, Ondi Timoner and David Timoner appear in <i>LAST FLIGHT HOME</i> by Ondi Timoner, an official selection of the Special Screenings section at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundanc
The premise: "Eli Timoner, a dedicated husband, father, and entrepreneur who founded the airline Air Florida in the 1970s, decides to medically terminate his life. During the 15-day waiting period, the bedridden but sharp-witted Eli says goodbye to those closest to him and helps them prepare for his departure. While his loved ones look back on Eli’s successes and devastating blows, they struggle to reconcile his choice."
Our critic’s take: Reading like a more conventional, confessional take on Kirsten Johnson’s "Dick Johnson Is Dead," Ondi Timoner’s "Last Flight Home" is a bit rougher around the edges than that previous instance of a female filmmaker eulogizing her beloved father through the power of cinema. But what it lacks in flash it makes up for in visceral, gut-punch impact, Timoner turning her own personal footage of her father’s last days into a heartbreaking doc about how we deal with death — whether it’s our own mortality or the loss of those we love.
"Last Flight Home" centers largely on the last two weeks of 92-year-old Eli Timoner’s life, which he plans to end medically — legal in California, though the doc shows us exactly how complex that process is, with many stipulations and approvals required to ensure it’s what Timoner truly wants. The documentary keeps us locked in with the Timoners as they check in on him, say goodbye and help him fulfill his last wishes. Even at 92, as he deals with breathing problems and a complete inability to move, Eli is a warm, genial presence; it’s easy to fall in love with him, which makes watching his final days ache all the more.
The rest of the Timoners are inspiring — a tight-knit family gripping on to each final moment with Eli like it’s a precious jewel. They don’t want him to go; we see it in each tear in their eye and every trembling lip. But they know it’s what he wants, and the family approaches this very definitive end date as an opportunity to say heart-wrenchingly detailed goodbyes.
It could feel invasive (bordering on voyeuristic) to have this much unfettered access to a dying man’s final days. But Timoner’s approach is humanistic and unobtrusive, wanting not to capitalize on her father’s death but to share the lovely person she knew with the rest of the world. This is her eulogy to her father, and it’s a brilliant one. "Last Flight Home" may turn you into a puddle in its devastating final minutes, but on the other side you’ll gain a fresh appreciation for the life you have and the people you love. [Clint Worthington]
101 minutes. Documentary. Dir: Ondi Timoner.
WATCH FOR FREE ON TUBI: Acclaimed James Baldwin documentary "I Am Not Your Negro"
Speak No Evil: A visceral but thin cautionary tale about how social niceties can kill you
Fedja van Huêt and Morten Burian appear in "Speak No Evil" by Christian Tafdrup, an official selection of the Midnight section at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Erik Molberg.
The premise: "While on holiday in Tuscany, a Danish family becomes fast friends with a fellow traveling family from the Netherlands. Months later, when an invitation arrives encouraging the Danish family to visit the Dutch in their countryside home, they don’t hesitate to plan a quick getaway. Free-spirited and adventurous, the Dutch welcome the Danes for the weekend, channeling an energy that rouses their visitors as drinks flow and they start to let loose. But what begins as an idyllic reunion soon takes a turn as the hosts increasingly test the limits of their houseguests. Now the Danes find themselves caught in a web of their own politeness, trying to understand whether their new friends are merely eccentric... or hiding something more sinister."
Our critic’s take: Few things (at least to many Midwesterners, this writer among them) are more terrifying than the thought of saying ‘no’ to someone, especially if they ask nicely. Will feelings be hurt or expectations disappointed? Will it be awkward, or even confrontational? Is this request really so unreasonable? These social fears are shared by many, in one form or another. And it’s precisely that tendency that Christian Tafdrup exploits in his brutal, slow-burn horror film "Speak No Evil."
While it dips into the same pitch-black waters trawled by directors like Michael Haneke and Lars Von Trier, "Speak No Evil" isn’t quite as successful or coherent as those filmmakers’ best works. But it intimately understands the social anxieties at play — both the universality of those feelings and how easily they can be exploited.
In the early stages, "Evil" is basically a Danish vacation dramedy, with the well-meaning Bjørn (Morten Burian) and Louise (Sidsel Siem Koch) apprehensive of but eager to enjoy their unexpected reunion with Patrick (Fedja van Huêt) and Karin (Karina Smulders). As the visit progresses, however, Bjørn and Louise are put through the ultimate pushover stress test, as Tafdrup forces them to endure one violation of social boundaries after another.
It’s in the latter half that Tafdrup starts turning the temperature up on our undoubtedly-doomed protagonists, sacrificing them on the altar of politeness. By the time you find out what Patrick and Karin really want with their guests (and what the real deal is with their mute, unapproachable child, Abel), you know it’s too late.
The results are bleak and brutal, enough to make you hide behind your couch. But apart from the moment-to-moment visceral discomfort of the characters’ situation, Tafdrup’s film feels comparatively empty. It’s easy to connect with the characters not because they’re fully fleshed out in their own right, but because the immediate tensions of their situation reach through the screen at the viewer. And while the final fifteen minutes are bleak as they come, it all adds up to little more than a nasty cautionary tale aired squarely at doormats. [Clint Worthington]
98 minutes. In Danish, Dutch and English. Dir: Christian Tafdrup. Featuring: Morten Burian, Fedja van Huêt, Sidsel Siem Koch, Karina Smulders.
WATCH FOR FREE ON TUBI: Tony Todd and Bruce Dern in the Tubi Original horror film "Hellblazers"
God’s Country: Thandiwe Newton is brilliantly icy in a neo-Western thriller about misogynoir
Thandiwe Newton appears in "God's Country" by Julian Higgins, an official selection of the Premieres section at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.
The premise: "Sandra (Thandiwe Newton) is very tired. It’s been years of trying (and failing) to please her recently deceased mother, while also navigating the challenging politics and power dynamics at the college where she teaches. And then there is the racism, sexism, and toxic masculinity she encounters wherever she goes. But it’s a confrontation with two hunters trespassing on her property that ultimately tests Sandra’s self-restraint, pushing her grief and mounting anger to their limits. God’s Country examines one woman’s grieving process and determination to be taken seriously amid her refusal to surrender to the confines of society."
Our critic’s take: Judging from the logline, you’d be forgiven for confusing "God’s Country" with the kind of remote revenge thriller Liam Neeson trots out most Januarys. But the grim beauty of Julian Higgins’ uncompromising, patient debut comes from how elegantly it blends its thriller bona fides with a rich character study. It’s a thoughtful look at a woman who puts her faith in the systems she engages in — education, law enforcement — only for them to fail her utterly.
Thandiwe Newton has long been an actress of tremendous poise, power and vulnerability, and she’s particularly adept at playing characters who could break your nose and fill your heart in the same conversation. She keeps that hot streak alive with a beautiful turn as Sandra, a onetime New Orleans resident now working as a college professor in an isolated mountain town. Even as the only Black woman around, subject to misogynoir (racism and sexism) both overt and covert, she won’t cede the high ground. "We all gotta play by the same rules if this is gonna work," she tells a hostile group of loggers. For the rest of the film, Higgins’ probing camera and Newton’s bravura performance show us the naïveté of that hope, even as the put-upon Sandra refuses to play the role of helpless victim.
Higgins’ visual style is remarkably assured for a debut filmmaker, capturing the icy whites and desolate blues of the film’s remote mountain setting with compositions that accentuate Sandra’s isolation in a predominantly white town. And the ending is a one-two punch of fully-earned despair, with a closing shot that will stick with you long after the credits roll. [Clint Worthington]
102 minutes. Dir: Julian Higgins. Featuring: Thandiwe Newton, Jeremy Bobb, Joris Jarsky, Jefferson White, Kai Lennox, Tanaya Beatty.
WATCH FOR FREE ON TUBI: Thandiwe Newton in the indie romance "Half of a Yellow Sun"
Resurrection: Rebecca Hall is a champion in this Cronenbergian stalker thriller
Rebecca Hall appears in "Resurrection" by Andrew Semans, an official selection of the Premieres section at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Wyatt Garfield.
The premise: "Margaret (Rebecca Hall) leads a successful and orderly life, perfectly balancing the demands of her busy career and single parenthood to her fiercely independent daughter Abbie. But that careful balance is upended when she glimpses a man she instantly recognizes, an unwelcome shadow from her past. A short time later, she encounters him again. Before long, Margaret starts seeing David (Tim Roth) everywhere — and their meetings appear to be far from an unlucky coincidence. Battling her rising fear, Margaret must confront the monster she’s evaded for two decades who has come to conclude their unfinished business."
Our critic’s take: A year after pulling off a different kind of horror show in "The Night House," Rebecca Hall returns for yet another terrifying portrait of a woman on the edge. This time, rather than dealing with supernatural mirrors of past trauma, Hall plays a compelling protagonist thrown into the crucible of domestic abuse. Margaret is a successful medical executive who is confronted by the unexpected presence of her old abuser David (a perfectly chilly Tim Roth) as he starts to pop up on the periphery of her life.
Hall, who hasn’t yet found a role that could stump her, leans fully into Maggie’s full-body response to her monster’s reappearance: At first sight, she drops everything and runs full-tilt away from the scene. Midway through the film, when Maggie discloses her horrifying past to an unsuspecting friendly ear, director Andrew Semans simply holds the camera on Hall, whose face is engulfed in a shadowy void as she delivers one of the most jaw-dropping monologues of her career. Hall plays Maggie like a woman possessed, David’s reappearance sending her into a constant state of fight or flight. And the way her distress bounces off other characters — Maggie’s coworkers, her rebellious teen daughter (a great Grace Kaufman), David himself — is the film’s secret sauce.
"Resurrection" isn’t for everybody. It takes some major swings, especially in its third act, which turns positively Cronenbergian in its discomfiting body horror. But it’s hard not to admire "Resurrection" for its pointed reflection on sexual trauma, for Semans’ cold and isolating camera and especially for one of the most alive horror performances in recent memory. [Clint Worthington]
103 minutes. Dir: Andrew Semans. Featuring: Rebecca Hall, Tim Roth, Grace Kaufman, Michael Esper, Angela Wong Carbone.
WATCH FOR FREE ON TUBI: Rebecca Hall in the riveting, visceral drama "Christine"
Am I OK?: Dakota Johnson, 2022’s rom-com queen
Dakota Johnson and Sonoya Mizuno in "Am I OK?"
The premise: "Lucy and Jane are the best of friends. They finish each other’s sentences, predict every detail of each other’s food order, and pretty much know everything about each other. But when Jane is promoted at work and agrees to move to London for her new position, Lucy confesses her deepest, long-held secret: She likes women, she has for a long time, and she’s terrified by this later-in-life realization. Suddenly, their friendship is thrown into chaos as the two choose different routes by which to navigate the unexpected changes in their lives."
Our critic’s take: A new gem in the non-traditional rom-com canon, Tig Notaro and Stephanie Allynne’s wryly sweet "Am I OK?" keeps its focus on the relationship that matters most in their story — after all, sometimes the love of your life isn’t a romantic connection.
Dakota Johnson (2022’s rom-com queen) and Sonoya Mizuno play best friends Lucy and Jane, two women navigating massive changes in their personal lives while also attempting to surf the waves those changes create in their friendship. The best rom-coms make you root desperately for those crazy kids to work it all out, and the same is true here: if you enter the film’s final act without a lump in your throat, whispering "just call each other already" while you stress-eat popcorn, you’re a stronger viewer than I.
Add in a solid supporting turn from Kiersey Clemons and a nightmarish hammock incident, and you’ve got a winner. Watch it with someone you love — especially if that person is the person you call when your love life gets rocky. [Allison Shoemaker]
86 minutes. Dir: Stephanie Allynne, Tig Notaro. Featuring: Dakota Johnson, Sonoya Mizuno, Jermaine Fowler, Kiersey Clemons, Molly Gordon, Sean Hayes.
WATCH FOR FREE ON TUBI: Dakota Johnson in the indie dramedy "Chloe & Theo"
More from the fest:
Left, from top: "2nd Chance," "Aftershock," "Mija," "I Didn't See You There." Right: "Hatching."
- 2nd Chance: Acclaimed director Ramin Bahrani ("99 Homes") makes an impressive debut as a documentarian with this sneakily moving film, which seems at the outset to be about the larger-than-life personality of Richard Davis, onetime local pizza magnate whose life took an unexpected turn when he invented the bulletproof vest. But Bahrani gradually reveals that what seems like a portrait is actually just a piece of a much larger (and more moving) landscape. The Davis story is one thing. The stories Bahrani tells around it is something else entirely — and however you react to Davis, that aspect of "2nd Chance" is not to be missed. 89 minutes. Documentary. Dir: Ramin Bahrani. [Allison Shoemaker]
- Aftershock: One of the most moving films to come out of this year’s Sundance is this simple yet shattering documentary about two mothers-to-be, Shamony Gibson and Amber Rose Isaac, who — like far, far too many Black women in the U.S. — died from preventable pregnancy complications when the medical community failed them. Their loved ones fight for justice in their names, a quest that brings their partners, Omari Maynard and Bruce McIntyre, together in grief and brotherhood. Directors Paula Eiselt and Tonya Lewis Lee take a light touch to the storytelling, allowing the facts and these powerful and passionate advocates to speak for themselves. The result is deeply affecting, a clarion call for change that uses the camera as a megaphone. 89 minutes. Documentary. Dir: Paula Eiselt, Tonya Lewis Lee. [AS]
- Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power: It’s difficult to shake the feeling that Nina Menkes’ deep dive into the "gendered politics of shot design" is less a documentary than a TED Talk — and to be fair, the film is described as an extension of Menkes’ "influential cinematic talk, ‘Sex and Power: The Visual Language of Cinema,’" which itself grew out of her 2017 article "The Visual Language of Oppression: Harvey Wasn’t Working in a Vacuum." But while "Brainwashed" isn’t entirely successful as a cinematic experience, its arguments make it worth a look. Using footage from classics ("Raging Bull," as an example) as well as cult films, Menkes shows us time and time again how often women are treated as objects in the visual language of film, while men are subjects — even when they’re taking their shirts off. 105 minutes. Documentary. Dir: Nina Menkes. [AS]
- I Didn’t See You There: As this potent experimental documentary nears its end, filmmaker Reid Davenport says to his mother that he hopes this will be the last personal film he ever makes. That’s an understandable wish: Davenport, a disabled filmmaker who uses a wheelchair, is an artist with a lot to say about the world, not just his own experience within it. Whether he’ll be satisfied in that hope remains to be seen, but if this truly is the last thing he has to say on the subject, "I Didn’t See You There" makes for a hell of a mic drop. Davenport trains his camera at the world in order to document his day-to-day experience, often literally attaching the lens to his wheelchair (an approach effective both visually and intellectually). As such, we watch as people gawk, avoid his eyes or prioritize their own convenience over his basic mobility and access (even to his own home!) All the while a circus tent looms in the background, a constant reminder of the difference between being looked at and being seen. "I Didn’t See You There" is a challenging but essential viewing experience. 76 minutes. Documentary. Dir: Reid Davenport. [AS]
- Hatching: When a bird careens into a mommy-blogger’s grotesquely perfect promotional video, it’s like a dart of darkness and chaos shot through a vat of cotton candy. What follows is, frankly, bonkers — and not a great fit for viewers who may not love seeing people (and other creatures) puke on screen. Yet what makes "Hatching" worth a look isn’t its wild premise (as the title suggests, there’s an egg-hatching situation), but the opportunities it affords young actress Siiri Solalinna, who plays Tinja, a girl who just wants to have a life outside of the one she lives for her mother’s camera. It’s a wish at odds with Tinja’s desperate need to please, and the real success of Solalinna’s performance becomes evident only as the film reaches its climax. But what precedes it is a squirmy, anxiety-inducing pleasure all the same; a body-horror/creature-feature hybrid done up in florals, feathers and lace. Maybe don’t eat first. 86 minutes. In Finnish. Dir: Hanna Bergholm. Featuring: Siiri Solalinna, Jani Volanen, Sophia Heikkilä, Saija Lentonen, Reino Nordin, Oiva Ollila. [AS]
- Mija: The success of director Isabel Castro’s relaxed, poignant debut feature is a testament to good decision-making. There’s the choice of a compelling subject, in this case young music manager Doris Muñoz, the American-born daughter of undocumented immigrants for whom financial stability also means the chance to help her parents get green cards (and thus reunite them with their son across the border). There’s the decision to give the documentary a second perspective through Jacks Haupt, the up-and-coming artist Doris finds online and immediately sees as someone special. Most of all, however, there’s Castro’s decision to show us what music means to these young women both personally and professionally. The stakes are high and the art is essential. The sight of Doris swaying to a song, her face turned up to the lights, is an image likely to linger with viewers long after the credits roll. Like her subjects, Castro is a talent to watch. 85 minutes. Documentary. In English and Spanish. [AS]
- My Old School: Not all of the swings filmmaker Jono McLeod takes in "My Old School" connect — as compelling a presence as Alan Cumming is, it’s possible no actor could pull off the task he’s charged with (lip-syncing to the audio of an interview with the documentary’s subject). But even if some of the stylistic flourishes don’t work, McLeod has two invaluable elements for a documentarian: a doozy of a story and a unique perspective. The old school in question is McLeod’s; the story is one he lived through; and the talking heads are people he’s known for years. Frankly, even a lesser film about the story of Brandon Lee would still be compelling, because wow, it’s something else. 104 minutes. Documentary. Dir: Jono McLeod. Featuring: Alan Cumming. [AS]
Our critics pick the best of the fest
Left: "Fire of Love" and "We Met in Virtual Reality." Right: "Cha Cha Real Smooth."
Clint Worthington: "We Met in Virtual Reality." "The heartwarming key to Joe Hunting’s inviting, humanistic documentary is the utter lack of condescension he exhibits toward his subjects. Tracking a number of communities in VRChat, including several couples who met on the platform and now engage in long-distance relationships, Hunting focuses on the freedom these kaleidoscopic virtual worlds lend to their inhabitants." Read the rest of Clint’s review.
Caroline Siede: "Cha Cha Real Smooth." "Wistfully romantic and impossibly charming, "Cha Cha Real Smooth" is a special little movie that’s deeper than the moniker "crowd pleaser" might suggest. [Writer/director Cooper Raiff] has a knack for writing dialogue that captures how people actually speak (or at least how they might if they were 10 percent more emotionally honest with each other). And that lends a palpable chemistry to just about every relationship in the film – from Andrew’s crackling flirtations with Domino (Johnson is excellent in her enigmatic role) to his sweet dynamic with his sensitive mom (Leslie Mann, also wonderful)." Read the rest of Caroline’s review.
Allison Shoemaker: "Fire of Love." "Pick just one of the major elements of this remarkable film — the Kraffts’ mind-boggling footage, Miranda July’s appealingly curious narration, direction that’s equal parts playful and mournful, masterful editing, a real humdinger of a love triangle — and that one element would be enough to make "Fire of Love" well worth approximately 100 or so minutes of your time. (93 minutes to watch, plus at least 10 to recover.) But director Sara Dosa allows all those fascinating pieces to roil together before, yes, erupting into a singular experience." Read the rest of Allison’s review.
About the writer: Allison Shoemaker is a Chicago-based pop-culture critic and journalist. She is the author of "How TV Can Make You Smarter," and a member of the Television Critics Association and the Chicago Film Critics Association. She is also a producer and co-host for the Podlander Presents network of podcasts. Find her on Twitter and Instagram at @allisonshoe. Allison is a Tomatometer-approved Top Critic on Rotten Tomatoes.
About the writer: Caroline Siede is a film and TV critic in Chicago, where the cold never bothers her anyway. A member of the Chicago Film Critics Association, she lovingly dissects the romantic comedy genre one film at a time in her ongoing column When Romance Met Comedy at The A.V. Club. She also co-hosts the movie podcast, Role Calling, and shares her pop culture opinions on Twitter (@carolinesiede).
About the writer: Clint Worthington is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association. He is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Spool, and a Senior Writer at Consequence. You can find his other work at Vulture, Nerdist, RogerEbert.com, and elsewhere.
Build your own film festival with these award-winning titles, streaming (for free!) on Tubi
Lion (2016): Dev Patel transformed his career (and his public image) with this critically acclaimed true story of a young Indian-Australian man who becomes determined to find his lost birth family. With four Golden Globe nominations, six Oscar nods and two BAFTA wins, it’s a cross-cultural story that resonated around the world. Rated PG-13. 118 minutes. Dir: Garth Davis. Also featuring: Sunny Pawar, Rooney Mara, Nicole Kidman, Priyanka Bose, David Wenham.
Lilies of the Field (1963): The great Sidney Poitier made history when he won a well-deserved Oscar for this comedic drama, an adaptation of William Edmund Barrett’s 1962 novel "The Lilies of the Field." When Homer (Poitier), an itinerant worker with long-dormant dreams of becoming an architect, saw a group of German nuns attempting to build a fence on a ramshackle Arizona farm, he probably didn’t expect to wind up taking on a massive construction project — but thanks to the intrepid Mother Maria (Lilia Skala), he’s persuaded to stay and help with a number of small jobs, then some medium-sized jobs, and then a whole church-sized job. It’s a charming film anchored by Poitier’s warm presence and thoughtful performance, a turn that will appeal to believers and non-believers alike. Rated TV-PG. 94 minutes. Dir: Ralph Nelson. Featuring: Sidney Poitier, Stanley Adams, Lilia Skala.
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